For tree farms, research shows less is more when it comes to pesticides


ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. — Some commercial tree farm managers who are used to applying large volumes of pesticides to control insects and diseases on their operations are trying a new management system using half the amount.


Horticulturists with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture are part of an effort led by The Ohio State University to teach nursery and farm managers how to cover more plants with less pesticide, thereby saving money and becoming more environmentally aware.
At a recent field day at the Green Ridge Tree Farm in Elizabethtown Amy Fulcher, UK nursery crops extension associate, gathered a group of Kentucky nursery owners and managers together to learn about the Half-Rate Pesticide approach.

Less is more

The Half-Rate Pesticide Program started at OSU about seven years ago, and OSU educators have traveled around the country ever since, showing people how less spraying can work for them.
Participants listened to Heping Zhu, an agricultural engineer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Randy Zondag, OSU extension educator, talk about calibrating sprayers to more efficiently apply pesticides. Zondag said many times growers have never calibrated their sprayer, and that leads to uneven coverage of the tree or crop.
It may, unfortunately, also lead growers to believe need to spray more.


Understandably, many growers are skeptical of the program at first because if it doesn’t work, they have a lot to lose, Zondag said.
Greg Goodpaster, tree farm production manager attending the field day, was one who started into the program with skepticism but has new found belief the program works after seeing what it has done for his farm.

Program is working

Green Ridge Tree Farm has participated in the program for two years with an air-assisted sprayer on the 150-acre farm. Managers there have only targeted a portion of the farm with the program. Now, they are able to compare the results, and they’re good, said Green Ridge Tree Farm manager Ben Cecil.
Fulcher said it’s important that growers become more sustainable, and the half-rate program can help them do that as well.

The demonstration was also a way for growers to see how a properly calibrated sprayer should look.
Zondag emphasized that it’s important for growers to understand their machinery, which could result in big savings.

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